Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Ohio State football’s sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller was named Big Ten offensive player of the week on Monday, and also received praise from OSU coach Urban Meyer about his play through the first three weeks of the season.
While the Buckeyes’ first-year coach has been among the many praising Miller, he is not yet ready to advertise his quarterback as a contender to win the 2012 Heisman Trophy.
“I will not say he’s not (a candidate to win the Heisman),” Meyer said. “I don’t believe he is now. He’s not playing well enough yet.”
Meyer, though, was full of praise regarding Miller.
“I have a lot of confidence in Braxton,” Meyer said. “He’s our best player right now on offense.”
Miller led the Buckeyes to a 35-28 victory over California on Saturday, completing 16-of-30 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing for 75 yards and another score. Miller’s plays in that game included a 55-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and a game-winning, 72-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith with 3:26 left to play in the game.
Miller’s recognition announced Monday marks the first time that the sophomore has earned an offensive player of the week award, but he was last year’s Big Ten Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year.
Miller has led the Buckeyes to victories in each of the team’s first three games, and has accounted for 988 yards of total offense, which ranks ninth in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. With 377 rushing yards, he ranks fifth nationally among all players in rushing yardage, and first among all quarterbacks.
OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman said opposing defenses have been making adjustments to account for Miller’s ability to run the ball.
“I’ve seen defenses in the last three weeks that I’ve never even dreamt of in my mind to try to stop the QB from running the football,” Herman said. “Teams now are trying to get eight, nine guys in the box to be sound against him pulling the ball and running, so the variety of coverage that we see on first- and second-down is absolutely mind-boggling.”
For the overall year, Miller has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 611 yards, with seven touchdown throws and two interceptions.
Herman said he has been pleased with his quarterback’s development this season.
“In terms of progress, I think he’s seeing the field better, I think he communicates with me on the sideline better than maybe I had expected,” Herman said. “He’s come a long ways.”
While Herman described Miller’s mental progress as a quarterback, he said there has “never been an issue with (Miller’s) upper-body mechanics.”
“The ball comes out very smoothly, he’s got a quick release, he’s got a strong arm,” Herman said of Miller.
Lower-body mechanics, however, remain a concern for Herman.
Herman said that to improve in that area, it comes down to “tying that into his feet and making sure that his hips and his feet are aligned properly to the throw, on time, when that throw needs to be made.”
OSU coaches and Big Ten voters are not the only ones praising Miller after his strong start through three games this season. Following their loss on Saturday, California’s coach and players also gave credit to Miller’s play.
“Braxton is a hard guy to contain because he is so big and physical,” said California coach Jeff Tedford. “For most of the day he made great decisions and threw some great passes. When he threw that long ball down the left side of the field, it was a perfect pass. He is fast, accurate and a great athlete.”
California senior cornerback Marc Anthony felt similarly.
“Braxton is one of the best in the game and he came through for his team,” Anthony said. “All of our eyes were on Braxton. We wanted other players to make something happen for them.”